Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

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isaiah6113
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Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby isaiah6113 » Thu Oct 18, 2018 10:43 pm

I have a question that is obviously elementary but has seemed intuitive to me and wondered if it was just a perception of mine. Languages change over time and sometimes they are influenced by other languages. However, as I listen to different languages, and as I learn ABOUT them and even study the rudiments, I can feel that each language has its own "vibe" if you will. I can definitely feel a cultural and historical connection attached to each language that just sends off a kind of emotion or energy. Hippie jokes aside. Does anyone here associate certain stereotypes to the langauge they are studying based on cultural perceptions? For example, Italian would seem to be a "joyful" language in comparison to a language like Arabic, which is associated with Islam. Without going into anything that would seem insulting to Islam, I see it as a more "stark" ideology than one associated with opera, historical discussions about the fall of Rome, gnocci, and travel in Sardinia. I'm using religion, culture and language interchangeably in that example, and I know it's a mistake. I hope someone sees my point. Icelandic, being connected to Old Norse, has its own "baggage" and thus has a certain vibe to it. I guess we also have to consider the ancestor languages which gave birth to the languages in question.

I've just wondered if anyone chose to either pursue or reject, after a certain period of time, the study of a particular language because of the vibe they were assimilating from the study of it, which is connected with the way it sounds but also the historical, religious, literary / poetic, or other qualities associated.
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Ani
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby Ani » Fri Oct 19, 2018 1:15 am

There comes a point when the romance and associations you took into the language wear off, and are replaced. And a while later those disappear too and you're just left with.. a language.
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eido
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby eido » Fri Oct 19, 2018 1:25 am

This is kind of a sensitive topic, but I'll respond.

I'm learning Korean because I like the sound. It's so mellifluous. I love the liquid R even though I can't get myself to produce it. Its vowel harmony is amazing - its words sound similar enough to make you hate the language at times because everything sounds the same, but different enough that it has a unique cadence that's purely Korean. On the surface, the language can seem pretty equality-driven, because there is no real word for she or he that I've encountered so far in my limited studies. They use the same word for that idea. But of course, the stereotype because it's an Asian culture is that men are placed above women in the hierarchy and sometimes this is reflected in old-fashioned words. Putting people above others is also something that's stereotypically associated with the culture, and that's definitely reflected in the language with politeness levels and polite words. But the culture is slowly changing as young people make things more equal in small ways as more erm, "Western" ideas get accepted into the mainstream. I'm curious to see how the language will change as a result of new generations coming in, and foreigners successfully learning the nation's tongue. Korean already has a lot of loanwords. But these stereotypes make me curious, because they're just surface projections of what it's actually like to live in South Korea. I have literally no idea what it must be like to be Korean, or Korean-American. There's so many misconceptions floating around as South Korea's pop culture spreads its influence, and in general among people who hear about Kim Jong-Un. I want to challenge mine and hopefully get a semi-accurate picture of both countries and their interactions.

Spanish? Sometimes I feel like I'm learning it because of the sunk-cost fallacy, but most of the time I feel like I love it. I didn't know anything except bad things about Hispanic culture going in to learning it, and now I know that Hispanic people are just like me. I live for the moments I can share experiences with them that teach the both of us about each other, either pointing out how our cultures make us a bit different, or how they make us laugh at the same memes, even if they're translated sometimes. It's the language I learn in, the one I feel the most myself in and the one I'm not trying to prove an ideological point with. Every time I sit down to learn it, I find something new to love about it. I love the way it sounds, how I sound speaking it, and what I can learn using it. I don't want to let it go.

Most of the languages I've chosen to dabble with are languages which sound good or have a culture that has something admirable in it. It doesn't have to have a perfect execution.

I kind of rambled, but I hope the emotion got across.
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby iguanamon » Fri Oct 19, 2018 12:48 pm

isaiah6113 wrote:...For example, Italian would seem to be a "joyful" language in comparison to a language like Arabic, which is associated with Islam. Without going into anything that would seem insulting to Islam, I see it as a more "stark" ideology than one associated with opera, historical discussions about the fall of Rome, gnocci, and travel in Sardinia. I'm using religion, culture and language interchangeably in that example, and I know it's a mistake. I hope someone sees my point. Icelandic, being connected to Old Norse, has its own "baggage" and thus has a certain vibe to it. I guess we also have to consider the ancestor languages which gave birth to the languages in question. ...

First, welcome to the forum, isaiah6113! To me, it all depends on perspective. I associate Arabic with my neighbor from Palestine with whom I would sit by the pool and talk about life and our kids as they swam. I think about falafel and baklava. Yes, there is conflict and strife, but this is a feature of almost every culture and has nothing to do with the language itself.

You can associate baggage with Italian. I'm sure Ethiopians, Libyans and residents of the Greek islands could tell you a thing or two about that history.

No language ever killed anyone. Some people who speak the language do and have done terrible things. Other people who speak the language have also done amazing, wonderful things. No culture is solely defined by either. Once that realization is internalized, then it's just a language. A language is a window to another world through which we can see a culture a little more clearly than we can through our own language.

That's what I like about learning a language. The more I get into it on a macro level, the more I get into it on a micro level. Learning a language connects me on both levels. It allows me to make friends and we can break down the artificial barriers between us that neither of us have anything to do with creating.
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby Ogrim » Fri Oct 19, 2018 1:26 pm

I've met many people who say they don't like language X because of the way it sounds. Normally they do not speak the language at all, or maybe failed learning it at some point. For me, any language can be beautiful - it depends on how it is spoken/written. Language sounds per se are neutral to me.

And yes, a language can be associated with nice or less nice things or historical events. For my parents' generation in Norway, German was not very popular to say the least, due to the Second World War. I have colleagues from Central European countries like Poland who hold very negative views of Russian because they grew up in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Some people look at me with suspicion because I learn Arabic.

I think Ani and Iguanamon have made very good comments. A language is a language. It is humanities' main tool for communication. To return to my parents and German, my dad never learnt it nor wanted to, but in spite of his experience with Nazi occupation, he was very proud of me learning German to a high degree. As he said, it is also the language of Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven and Mozart.

I guess human beings are often tempted to create or reinforce stereotypes about others, or even about themselves. We create an image of Italians as joyful, Spaniards as "passionate", Germans as orderly, and we may think that their language reflects these traits. Unfortunately some stereotypes easily lead people to being judgemental of others - because someone is from country X or speak language Y, they are expected to behave in a certain way or hold "values" which are different to ours. Learning languages is one way of fighting bigotry and intolerance - speaking with people, reading books and newspapers, watching tv series, it all gives you an insight into those different cultures and you may find, as I have done, that people there live lives that are not so different from your own.
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby Cainntear » Sat Oct 20, 2018 11:14 am

Most Italian speakers don't like opera, so opera isn't part of the language.

The link between Italian and opera is fairly practical: the operatic voice style evolved because orchestras were getting louder, so singers had to sing louder if they wanted to be heard over the backing. This meant using the vocal tract in a different way. The way they developed works well with the phonemes of Italian, and less so with other languages, so was most likely to be developed in Italy.

Your association is therefore back-to-front -- opera leads from the language, and any cultural effects are by-products of historical happenstance.
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DaisyMaisy
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Re: Does Each Language Carry Baggage?

Postby DaisyMaisy » Sun Oct 21, 2018 3:01 am

What's so great about studying a language is that it gives us a chance to see past stereotypes that we might have. I think if there is baggage, it's what we maybe haul around with us, when we don't know better.

When I saw the thread title, I thought of baggage in terms of stuff languages have carried along from the past. Not a bad thing necessarily, just things have happened along the way. Like changes in English grammar from Old to Modern English.
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